Novel Revisions – Substantive Changes and Proper Planning

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

It’s 7:42 PM on a Sunday, and we all know what that means: It’s time for another writing-related post to bore and alienate people.

On my first WordPress post ever, I was starting on draft six of my novel which was a little over 75,000 words (and the title to my first post was misspelled, as evidenced by the perma-link—I’m awesome). I’m currently halfway through draft seven and the word count has gone up to 79,000. Still fluctuating.

[UPDATE/NOTE: Check the comments for other WordPressers’ thoughts on planning out your novel.]

Substantive Changes in Later Drafts

Since I started this novel, I knew that I would immediately have to make huge substantive changes when I started editing: adding, removing, and changing entire characters and events. This was somewhat anticipated because I wrote my novel in a don’t-look-back method where I would avoid editing my chapters too much as I went. My priority was to reach my word count goal. So, it was a given that I would need to make important changes to the novel.

However, I didn’t expect that I would still be making major substantive changes while working on draft seven. Really, I thought by the time I got this far, I’d simply be tweaking prose and correcting grammar and spelling mistakes.

This problem likely resulted from not starting with a detailed outline; I just created the world and a few characters with certain psychological profiles, and nudged them forward to do whatever they wanted. This resulted in a whole lot of mundane crap that had to be cut and altered.

Benefits of “Proper” Planning

I don’t think there’s absolutely correct way to plan a novel. Between the many successful authors out there, I’m sure they’ve used just about every method conceivable. That being said, I think there are a few things I could’ve done to help me write a better novel and avoid making substantive edits so late in the game: Continue reading

The DNA of Bestselling YA

What makes a Young Adult novel (commercially) successful? That’s a very important question for all YA authors, agents and publishers. Here’s my breakdown of five big-hitters of YA, considering author inspiration, premise, theme, and cultural context (note: I’m just another person writing stuff, and not proclaiming myself as some all-knowing god of fiction).

Warning, there may be some spoilers, but there aren’t many big ones, so read on!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Everyone’s favorite oblivious-to-love heroine.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins


Suzanne Collins has stated that The Hunger Games is “very much based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur” wherein the Athenians were required to send seven youths into a labyrinth where they are faced with the deadly Minotaur (no mention of Battle Royale, though I would assume that Collins at least saw the name while researching). The catalyst for the story came when Collins was flipping channels and seeing young people compete in reality shows, and other young people dying in real-life wars.

Work and Context

Commercial and mainstream fiction generally relies heavily on the premise. The Hunger Games‘ handles that quite well: the young, poor, and attractive are forced to fight to the death while Continue reading

Of Art and Bravery

typewriter2Growing up, I was always into art.  I loved to draw and write, among other things.  For a long time, however, I thought of these activities only as hobbies.  It wasn’t until I was well into college that I started seriously considering being a novelist.  Even then, it wasn’t until I was studying for the bar exam (years after undergrad) that I finished the first draft of a manuscript.

The main reason it took so long for me to come around was fear: the fear of failure; the fear of ridicule.  How could I possibly succeed where so many fail?  Art is subjective–the chances you’ll be recognized as good or entertaining are slim.

So, why am I trying now?  Why do so many unestablished artists still practice their craft and lay out their work to be scrutinized?  It’s because our courage is at a point where it outweighs our fear (some people are lucky and/or awesome, and reach this point much earlier in life).

While I try to write a scoff-resistant agent query, it’s a safe bet that most agents who see it will either send me a form rejection or not bother responding at all.  Still, I try.  Still, we all try.  As Eddard Stark from A Game of Thrones says, “the only time a man can be brave [is when he is afraid].”

Be brave, baby artists.  The earlier, the better (well, assuming you don’t drag your own name through the mud with half-assery).

I was inspired to write this entry after having read a fellow blogger’s post, “The Other Side of the Fence…” in which Ms. ked (for lack of known surname) discusses the tendency for (high school) folks to rag on their peers who pursue art (e.g., singing, acting, writing, etc.).

Writing Book 2 Before Book 1 is Agented

Book Stacks

Photograph by Toby Hudson, distributed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

It seems like common advice for unestablished novelists is that after you send your manuscript out, you should take a break from that novel and work on another project.  It’s also advised that you should not begin writing a sequel in a series until the first book is picked up (supposedly, agents and publishers prefer a debut author’s first work to be a standalone so they need not commit to a series; of course, I’ve heard the opposite as well–people love them some trilogies).

Anyway, getting to me—’cause that’s really why I have this blog, to talk about me doing stuff—I’m considering doing all of the following at the same time: begin writing a sequel to my currently unagented manuscript; begin writing a new, unrelated novel; and continue editing my older manuscript and drafting an agent query for it.

Good idea or bad idea?  I’ll think about it.

[Edit: I didn’t starting another project ’til a month or two after this post, and I only got about a quarter of a way through the first draft before I set it aside to start on another project that I’m much more likely to finish, referenced in this later post.]

J.K. Rowling’s New “Harry Potter” Short, Thoughts

Image of J.K. Rowling

Photograph by Daniel Ogden, distributed under CC BY 2.0.

If you’re a Potter fan and haven’t already done so (unlikely), you might want to log into Pottermore and check out the Daily Prophet for J.K. Rowling’s short (told through Rita Skeeter’s gossip column, 08 June 2014).  You can likely find the short posted elsewhere if you don’t have a Pottermore account, but why do that if you can sign up for free and join me in Gryffindor (assuming you have what it takes)?

Rowling’s short provides a bit of insight into the lives of Harry Potter and company following the battle at Hogwart’s.  It works as a very good teaser if Rowling intends to go back to writing about Hogwarts.  At the end of the short, Rita Skeeter mentions her book on Dumbledore’s Army will be available to the wizarding world on July 31st.  Maybe Rowling will announce something then?  Seems unlikely, but we can hope.